Weetabix rebut claim shops could run out of popular cereal during Corby and Burton Latimer factory strikes

Workers are going out on strike over the company's controversial 'fire and rehire' scheme

Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:28 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:31 pm
Weetabix has plants at Corby and Burton Latimer. Image: JPI Media.

Weetabix says it's 'confident' it can avoid shops running out of the family favourite breakfast dish as strikes loom at it's North Northamptonshire factories.

Unite said this afternoon (Friday, May 4) that it expected shops to run out of Weetabix this summer after workers voted to strike over ‘fire and rehire’ plans that would see pay slashed.

Around 80 engineers who are members of Unite at the company’s sites on the Earlstrees Industrial Estate in Corby and Station Road in Burton Latimer will take part in a series of one day strikes during June, July and August that are still to be scheduled.

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Weetabix has issued the engineers with new contracts and work patterns, which will result in major cuts in shift allowances. There will also be a move to require more day working than shift working, further contributing to the cut in pay.

Some of the affected engineers say they will lose up to £5,000 a year. Unite says it also has major concerns about health and safety of the workers at both plants due to the low number of engineers who will now be on duty at certain times.

Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said: “Weetabix and its US parent company Post Holdings are incredibly profitable and are not facing any financial difficulties.

“Our members are well aware that these fire and rehire attacks are simply an opportunistic response to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“They are incensed at the company’s unacceptable behaviour, which is especially galling given their pivotal role in keeping Weetabix’s plants operating during the worst of the pandemic.

“The strikes will impact Weetabix supplies this summer and it is expected there will be shortages in the shops.

“Industrial action can still be prevented if Weetabix withdraws its fire and rehire threats and engages in constructive negotiations with Unite’s representatives.”

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

The union is running a national campaign to get the government to outlaw the practice, in line with other competitor countries, to give UK workers protection. A recent Survation poll for Unite found seven in ten want the practice banned.

Unite assistant general secretary for politics and legal, Howard Beckett said: “It's quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire.

"There is no grey area here. They see that this is an objectionable practice that should be banned. The government has to get on the same page as the voters on this - and fast."

A Weetabix spokesman said: "To continue to meet the expectations of our customers and consumers it is important that our ways of working evolve, and as a business we continue to invest in our people, plants, and products.

"We are naturally disappointed by the result of the reported ballot from union Unite, but respect the voice of our workforce and their representatives. Our success over nearly 90 years is built on a strong relationship with our workforce.

"We will remain in close consultation with them and are confident that together we can avoid any product shortages while we implement necessary new ways of working to keep us competitive for the next 90 years and beyond.”